This year, turn winter cravings on their head and make your food work for you.
“Over the cooler months our bodies crave carbohydrates and often heavier ones too, such as potatoes, rice and pasta dishes,” explains Jacqueline Alwill, Nutritionist, and Director of The Brown Paper Bag Nutrition. “This is because during the winter months there are fewer daylight hours and our endocrine (hormone) system responds by producing more melatonin – our sleep hormone. To resist the urge to in fact just sleep, we turn to energy-dense sources of food such as carbohydrates to pick our energy levels up.”
Our metabolic rate can be influenced by a variety of factors including the temperature of our environment. Whether it’s extremes of hot or cold the body needs to work harder to maintain our internal temp, she explains
“For example, in winter we feel cold and often less energized, so we crave food to improve our energy and in this process of our body breaking down food it has a thermic or warming effect within the body,” she says. “We’re utilizing the energy from food for warmth but storing more of it than we do in the spring-summer months.”
According to Jacqueline, there are certain superfoods that we can find in winter that can satiate our cravings and help boost our metabolism at the same time.
Lemon: “Juice of half a lemon in 1/4 warm (boiled) water first thing in the morning and sip it through a straw to prevent tooth decay,” Jacqueline advises. Lemon kickstarts the liver into action and prepares our body to break down food.
Chili and Horseradish: Heat fires up the body and the rate at which it burns fuel, explains Jacqueline. Assist this process by just sprinkling chili flakes whenever you feel a dish could use a kick, she says. “I eat chili frequently and include the likes of kimchi – a spicy fermented vegetable – with at least one meal.”
Chicken, fish, and eggs are all lean proteins and are fantastic for improving the metabolic rate. “Eggs at breakfast with vegetables are a great warming option to vary up porridge in the winter,” she says.
Green Tea: This contains compounds that can improve metabolic rate, so try having green tea in the morning or where you once may have had coffee as an excellent swap with an antioxidant kick too.
Water: “This often goes astray in the winter months as we are not perspiring as much as the warmer months of the year,” concedes Jacqueline, “but our bodies still require proper hydration to work efficiently.” Her advice is to aim for 1.5 to two litres of water daily, “and add an extra 500ml for every 30 minutes of exercise year round.”
“The other key factor here is to eat frequently – every 3-4 hours – as this will ensure our metabolism keeps burning,” adds Jacqueline. “Think of it as a fire within your body, if you don’t put wood on the fire it dims, but when you recharge it, it burns higher/harder.”
Foods to avoid include:
Mashed/Baked Potato: Swap for cauliflower, which is great, roasted or steamed and pureed. “Sweet potato is also a lovely alternative and offers our bodies a lovely source of antioxidants too!”
Alcohol: “Alternate drinks with sparkling water if you want to have your cake and eat it too, or go for dry July and utilize the motivation of those around in the same boat to avoid alcohol for a full month this winter,” suggest Jacqueline.
Puddings and desserts: Warm comfort food after dinner such as puddings and cakes with cream are only going to slow you down, says Jacqueline. “In summer we usually go for a piece of fruit, but the game seems to change drastically in winter,” she notes. As an alternative to stodgy, sugary desserts, reach for a whole baked instead. “Pears or apples sprinkled with cinnamon and a dollop of natural yoghurt or cottage cheese is a great option.”
Jacqueline’s Winter Recipes: